Interview with John Wilkinson
President of EDCF – European Digital Cinema Forum

John Wilkinson, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Cinema Exhibitors’ Association since 1990, was elected President of EDCF – European Digital Cinema Forum – in June 2006.

Mr Wilkinson, EDCF was founded in 2000 mainly on the initiative of public institutions, particularly in Northern Europe, and in fact its first President was Åse Kleveland, then Head of the Swedish Film Institute. Today the President of EDCF is a representative of one of the Continent’s leading cinema exhibitors’ associations. From the public sector to that of business: would you like to comment on this shift?
EDCF has realized that the technical aspects concerning digital transition are pretty much settled.
If digitalisation is to progress, EDCF will have to direct its support towards enabling cinema operators to take fully informed decisions about digitalisation in cinemas.
The Guide for Beginners, published at the end of 2005, is a clear indication of this trend by EDCF, emphasizing that the main focus must shift from technical aspects to application.
I think my nomination as President comes in this perspective.

Placing the emphasis on the implementation of digital roll-out necessarily means facing the critical issue of the business model. What does EDCF suggest here?
EDCF doesn’t have a business model because one model may not be applicable in all countries. EDCF has to act as a one-stop shop for information about all business models, if and when they emerge.

What can you tell us about one of the models that we hear most about, the so-called Virtual Print Fee, launched in the United States?
We cannot say that the American VPF model – as far as we understand it – (only the companies involved really know exactly how it is structured) is the “solution”. Probably it is the solution for the USA, but it may not be for Europe. Even in the USA, each VPF model is different for each cinema chain or financier.
Other ideas should be explored, particularly in Europe.
The VPF model works in the USA where 95% of products are home-produced.
It is thus inconceivable for a lightening transposition to be made from North America to Europe, a market – or a larger group of markets – with very different characteristics, starting from their structure, from the number of national productions and those of other European countries, and the wide range of players both in terms of distribution and in terms of exhibition.

What are EDCF’s commitments for the immediate future?
EDCF must persuade European producers and distributors to contribute to the digitalisation of cinemas. They must realize that they are part of the process and that this costs money.
In Europe we cannot imagine that the studios alone will contribute. (They have already said that they will not do this. Even if they did, the usage fee for those who did not contribute to creating this business model might be so high as to exclude them). We believe that to launch business models that suit Europe the role of the European Commission is important, in terms of encouraging and providing incentives for the involvement of European producers and distributors.
VPF is not the only model.